How To Prepare For A Career In Internet Marketing: A Guide For Students

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In the last few weeks, a few students have tweeted me asking what they can do to prepare for a career in Internet marketing. While I was happy to reply with a few tips, it’s a topic that is better addressed in a blog post rather than 140 characters. So if you’re someone interested in a career in Social Media, SEM, or any aspect of Internet marketing, here are a few suggestions.

Don’t Read Books

One question I get a lot is, “Which Internet marketing books do you recommend?” My answer is always the same — don’t read any books. The obvious flaw with books on Internet marketing is that they’re almost certainly outdated as soon as they’re published. Google and Facebook change algorithms and add features without notice. An update to Apple’s operating system can change the way people search and use social networks. Likewise, new social networks pop up and gain users literally overnight.

No author can write a book to keep up with the Internet’s fast-paced landscape.

If you want to learn Internet marketing, you need experience. Five hours of experience with a platform such as AdWords, Facebook, or Twitter is better than five books on the same topic. Volunteer for a non-profit or political campaign. Find a small business with a website and ask if you can be an intern.

You could even gain valuable experience simply by experimenting with your own personal blog. Test ways to drive traffic with paid search, organic search, and social media. Start collecting email addresses and send marketing emails. All these activities can be done on a small scale but will bring the experience you need to land a job.

Learn To Write

Amy Rose Brown is a recent Ohio University journalism graduate. After graduation, Amy applied to 140 jobs before landing at Wendy’s as a Social Media Specialist. I asked her what advice she had for students…

“Take a creative writing class if you can. The ability to think and write creatively is something that will make you stand out, and is a valuable skill to develop.”

I couldn’t agree more with Amy. Writing is a necessary skill for all those in Internet marketing. From writing copy for paid search ads to composing tweets and email content, the ability to write is paramount.

Observe Brands

You gain a lot of insight by watching what brands are doing online. Some things to watch:

  • Website layout. How are the desktop and mobile versions of the sites designed?
  • Purchasing process. On e-commerce sites, how do they try to push customers to purchase and make the process simple?
  • Email strategy. How frequently are emails sent? What are the email’s calls to action?
  • Social media efforts. Which platforms do they use? What types of content do they post?

Find five or so brands and observe how each one tackles these areas. Find things you like and dislike about each one.

Learn Excel

Internet marketing is full of testing, tweaking, and analyzing. If you can create and interpret spreadsheets, as well as identify trends, you will be a valuable asset to a team. Unlike “traditional” marketing, every impression, click, and sale generated by Internet marketing efforts can be tracked. If the data is properly collected and presented, there is a massive opportunity to improve strategy and pinpoint weaknesses.

Take Advantage Of School Resources

Scott Cowley is a Web marketer with agency and in-house experience. He’s currently a Marketing PhD student. He recommends taking advantage of school resources that relate to Internet marketing. These include:

  1. Student groups (tech/marketing/entrepreneurship). You may not learn much, but you’ll make great friends.
  2. Free technical courses. A lot of universities offer free Photoshop or other technical classes to students. Learn these things now!
  3. Student discounts. Students get some great discounts on career-relevant things like external networking groups, conferences, software, and online learning platforms like Lynda.com. It is ridiculous how many student perks there are and most students either don’t realize it or don’t use them.

Conclusion

The best Internet marketers are self-taught. They have put in the time to gain experience and test out various strategies across different platforms. They are familiar with all aspects of the industry. The best ones don’t just focus on social media, they examine how social media impacts search and how social media and search can help them grow their email list.

If you have a mind that loves creativity and analysis, and you’re willing to learn on your own, you will be a great prospect for any Internet marketing job.

Photo from lowjumpingfrog. Used under Creative Commons license.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features & Analysis | Internet Marketing Industry

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About The Author: is a Digital Media Producer in the Publishing Services Department of the LDS Church. Previously, Drew was a Digital Marketing Manager on the e-commerce team at ZAGG, Inc. where he oversaw the company's social media and affiliate marketing initiatives.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/alexcliff0rd Alex Clifford

    Great article! I’d agree the best internet marketers are self taught.

    I know you say don’t read books, but I’d disagree. Disregard marketing books, but something are fairly timeless. I would recommend The New Rules of Marketing & PR, as well as anything by Seth Godin. These were great primers for myself to learn how the marketing world is changing.

    Really good article Drew – I enjoyed reading it.

  • http://twitter.com/victorpan victorpan

    The New Rules of Marketing & PR is a must. Read Seth Godin to learn how to write.

    The problem with books is that you don’t act on them, but I do see where you’re coming from here. It’s always more valuable to do, and experience things yourself – while having an unbiased opinion on how it may work/not work for others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501376149 Jamie Ippolito

    I’d suggest: build a website. then build another one. Try different platforms, build another website. If you can’t build a website (or at the very least know how), you can’t market one.

  • http://castillomediagroup.com/ Michelle Castillo

    I do not agree with your opinion about books. There are certain books that remain relevant for a long time. Especially those who talk about content creation, building trust etc.

  • Dino Maiolo

    I’m sure there will be plenty of us who will add our two cents to this. You mention it, but I’d stress learning analytics a bit more. Also, read the top blogs everyday. I can’t agree more on the writing aspect. That’s probably the biggest flaw I see among internet marketers today. It’s not only the lack of writing skills, but the disrespect for proper usage, grammar and sentence syntax.

  • http://www.examiner.com/internet-and-technology-in-national/david-frankk David Frankk

    I totally agree with the punch-line. I myself am a self-taught internet marketer, author, news reporter and believe that it is a continuous learning process.

  • http://twitter.com/BFMack Brian Mack

    Great post! and I agree in general, with one caveat. There were two books that I found during my early days of understanding social media that I found very helpful in grasping the “big picture”. They are The Cluetrain Manifesto and Groundswell. Both have been recently updated to incorporate recent changes in the social media landscape. They focus much more on understanding social media as an integrated eco-system and the importance of genuine engagement.

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